humpback whale underwater

Have you ever wondered what whales eat? What’s in those big-ass bellies?

Big fish? Little fish? Lobster with butter? Shrimp cocktail with lemon slices? Lots of men named Jonah?

A report from this week’s New Yorker answers this pressing—I use this word completely unironically—question for us:

“In 2017, a beaked whale washed up onshore near Bergen, Norway. In its stomach were some thirty pieces of plastic trash, including Ukrainian chicken packaging, a Danish ice-cream wrapper, and a British potato-chip bag.”

“The carcasses of beluga whales that wash up on the shores of Canada are classified as toxic waste.” (The article implies that this is due, at least in part, to high mercury levels.)

“A sperm whale that recently washed up on the Spanish coast had an entire greenhouse in its belly: the flattened structure, together with the tarps, hosepipes, ropes, flowerpots, and spray cannister it had contained.”

People, this is unacceptable. The earth’s oceans are no longer happily gorgeous deep blue habitats for their dwellers. They are a toxic waste dump. And the problem is only getting worse.

I recently listened to a podcast in which the guest explained that the earth’s ocean situation is bad, bad, bad—but not completely hopeless. Solutions are difficult, but they can be come by when political leaders work closely with scientific experts to craft policy that helps people and oceans. And since we are all interconnected, this amounts to the same thing.

Next week, I’ll introduce a book about whales. But—the book isn’t really about whales! It’s about love and family and friends and growing up and whales and oh so much more. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. For real.

What’s in your belly?